Naamah’s Kiss is the first book in Jacqueline Carey’s latest trilogy set in the world of Terre d’Ange, although it takes place a few generations after the first two trilogies in Kushiel’s Legacy. The second book, Naamah’s Curse, was just released last month, and the author is still working on Naamah’s Blessing which does not yet have a release date according to the June update on her website.
Moirin, the great-granddaughter of Alais de la Courcel, is of the Maghuin Dhonn, a people in Alba who follow the Brown Bear goddess. At one time, the Maghuin Dhonn were powerful magicians, but they have only had smaller magics after making a great mistake. Although they are still feared and viewed with suspicion, they cannot predict the future or shapeshift but mostly have smaller tricks such as concealment and an awareness of animals.
When Moirin is very young she has visions of a man with a seedling and a beautiful bright lady. Later Moirin learns her father was a d’Angeline priest, and the man and woman she saw are a god and goddess from her other heritage. Because of this lineage she has some additional gifts, such as the ability to sense the feelings of plants and manipulate their growth. Once Moirin becomes old enough to undergo a rite of passage in which she will find out if she has been accepted by the bear goddess, she learns from Her that she has a destiny outside of Alba. All she knows is that she must cross the sea, so she goes to Elua to look for her father and embarks on a journey that brings her to the even more distant land of Ch’in.
Naamah’s Kiss is a fairly long book; the hardcover version is 656 pages. However, it goes by quickly for its length since it is very readable from the start and has lots of small paragraphs and relatively short chapters. After reading Kushiel’s Dart, the expectation was lots of dense prose but the style in Naamah’s Kiss is very different – still elegant, but much more concise, which fits the narrator better. The complexity of Phedre’s voice in Kushiel’s Dart went with her more complex role as a well-educated, trained spy with an awareness of political machinations. While she is certainly intelligent, Moirin grew up in the woods in near isolation and goes out into the world without a lot of knowledge about how it works. As a result she is naive at times, plus with her gifts that keep her close to nature, she seems much more earthy. Her more straightforward, uncomplicated tone reflects her character well, and she is a completely different person than Phedre.
While Phedre was more interesting to read about, Moirin was easier to relate to, partially due to having an upbringing in which she wasn’t prepared for a life but was allowed to be a child. Although she was influential in events due to her magic, Moirin also served as a pillar of strength and support for some with important duties and helped guide them in their decisions. She was kind-hearted and open-minded but still special given her abilities and the fact that she had a destiny. This role also made her very sympathetic since she had to go wherever fate lead her – and often her idea of what she would like to do and what she was supposed to do did not match, making for many heartbreaking goodbyes.
Terre d’Ange is an alternate earth and it is a fascinating place to visit. It was enjoyable to get to see so many places in this novel since it started in Britain, then went to France and eventually ended up in China. At first, I was sad to leave the European area, but I really liked Moirin’s adventures in China and the incorporation of more Eastern culture and myths, particularly the dragon. Yet there was no boring travelogue even with so many long trips; the actual time spent traveling was kept to minimum and the relatively few pages that were dedicated to the trip were never boring.
As those familiar with the other books set in this world could probably guess, the goddess Naamah plays a role in Moirin’s life so there is quite a bit of sex in this book. Unlike the Kushiel books, there is not BDSM but Moirin does have sexual relationships with several people of both genders (the d’Angelines are pretty open about sex as they follow the philosophy “love as thou wilt” and have a priesthood dedicated to Naamah). I felt it was tasteful and not too cheesy – it wasn’t terribly overwritten or described in such a way that made it sound as though the people involved had a serious medical condition.
Although it was not quite as excellent as the more complex, political Kushiel’s Dart, Naamah’s Kiss was a very absorbing story with another great heroine. I’m looking forward to seeing where Moirin’s destiny leads her in Naamah’s Curse.
My Rating: 8/10
Where I got my reading copy: I won it in a giveaway.